Summary and Analysis Book VII: Chapter I



In analyzing the relationship between intellect (reason) and desire, it is possible to distinguish three states of badness — incontinence (weakness of will), vice, and bestiality — and three corresponding states of goodness — continence (strength of will), virtue and superhuman virtue (saintliness).

Bestiality is found chiefly among barbarians, although it may occasionally be produced among civilized men by disease or mutilation, and saintliness is extremely rare, so neither of these states will have significant place in our discussion. Incontinence can be defined as acting from passion despite knowledge that one's acts are bad, and continence consists of knowing that one's appetites can be bad and resisting them in obedience to a rule. Since virtue and vice had already been treated at length, we will concentrate on continence and incontinence in hope of determining the nature and causes of moral weakness.